Stewart Criticizes NASCAR's Changes to Vegas

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Tony Stewart doesn't like the changes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The two-time NASCAR champion thinks they were unnecessary and will make for a boring race this weekend.

``I thought they screwed up a really nice race track,'' Stewart said Wednesday. ``They had a track that every year was getting better and better, and the racing was getting better and better.''

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During reconstruction of the 1 1/2 -mile oval since the Nextel Cup race there last March, the banking was increased from 12 to 20 degrees. The pit lane was moved closer to the front stretch grandstands, making for a smoother transition from corner to straightaway.

Las Vegas officials contend the reconfiguration will create more side-by-side and competitive racing.

``Tony and I would probably have to agree to disagree, and I think the race fans will disagree as soon as Saturday and Sunday roll around,'' Las Vegas general manager Chris Powell said. ``I think the competition is going to be much better with this added banking.''

But Stewart expects the cars to run ``in one or two lines'' Sunday in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. He said the groove didn't move much during two days of testing with Cup and Busch cars in January.

``It's going to make for a worse race in my opinion,'' Stewart said.

Track owner Bruton Smith had the opinions of the fans in mind when he changed the facility

``It didn't bother Tony when the cars got strung out and the fans were yearning for more side-by-side racing. That wasn't a problem for Tony, and I can understand that perspective,'' Powell said. ``But Bruton Smith puts the race fans first, and that's what he was doing with this new configuration -- looking for better competition and more side-by-side racing.''

Stewart's comments came in response to a question about the Las Vegas changes during an appearance at Texas Motor Speedway, another 1 1/2 -mile track Smith owns. Stewart won at Texas last November and has seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts there.

``(Las Vegas) was actually a unique and fun race track,'' Stewart said. ``Why would you take a track like Vegas that's almost the same age (as Texas) and now redo it again, and have to go through the whole aging process all over again. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.''

The first Cup race in Las Vegas was in 1998, the same year the Texas track was reconfigured after hosting its first two Cup races.

There's no question that the Las Vegas track is now faster. Elliott Sadler turned a lap of 188.772 mph during testing five weeks ago, significantly higher than Greg Biffle's pole speed of 172.403 mph last March.

With the new surface and harder tires, however, Stewart expects the field to separate when all 43 cars are on the track.

``We could go down and it could be the best race NASCAR has ever had in their existence, and I could be 100 percent wrong,'' Stewart said. ``But from what I saw in the test, it's not going to be a very fun race.''

AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

Updated on Wednesday, Mar 7, 2007 6:48 pm EST


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